What to do when your computer freezes or locks up

It happens to everyone at some point. You’re doing something on your computer, whether it’s an important project, some aimless browsing, or trying to beat your high score on Minecraft, and without warning everything freezes.

You wiggle the mouse, click some buttons a few times, tap a few keys on your keyboard and get nothing. Your 21st-century piece of technology is as useless as a pet rock. What do you do next?

Before freaking out and tossing your computer into the recycle bin, there are a few simple steps that you can take to try and get it moving again. You won’t even need to contact IT for help. Keep reading to find out how to handle a frozen computer.

Have you tried a simple restart?

OK, this step is obvious. However, some people think they have to pull the computer’s power plug or flip the switch on the power strip. Instead, simply hold the computer’s power button for 5 to 10 seconds and it will restart with less disruption than a complete power loss.

There are a few things that can happen next when your computer comes back on. Let’s look at the three most typical ones and what you should do next.

1. Computer starts fine

If the computer starts up fine, immediately back up your important information in case a serious problem is on the way. Otherwise, you could find yourself scrambling through more complicated ways to get files off a dead computer. Tap or click for the best way to back up critical data before it’s too late.

Then use the computer as normal until it freezes again, although it might not. If